Farron Cousins

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his writings have appeared in publications such as California's Information Press and Pensacola's Independent Weekly.  He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program, in charge of guest booking, research, and scripting the week's show.  Farron also runs Mike Papantonio's publishing company - Seville Publishing. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

Has The Gulf Of Mexico Hit Peak Oil?

There are enough articles on the “myth of peak oil” floating around the Internet to fill a book; and there are enough books on the subject to fill a small library.  One of the common threads throughout these publications is their lack of credible sources, because not only is peak oil real, but we’re rapidly approaching that threshold. 

An example that is smacking the United States and the oil industry in the face right now is floating in the Gulf of Mexico. 

According to a new government report, oil and natural gas production in the Gulf has been steadily declining for the last decade. The report looked at oil production in the Gulf of Mexico on federal lands only, not any privately-held lands where production is taking place. Since 2010, according to the report, the annual yield of oil from the Gulf has fallen by almost 140 million barrels. 

While the Gulf region still accounts for 69% of U.S. oil produced on federal lands, the dramatic decline in production tells a story that the oil industry doesn’t want us to hear.  Peak oil is clearly beginning to play a role in U.S. exploration.

Contrary to what some of the peak oil deniers want the public to believe, peak oil does not mean that we’re about to run out of oil. What it means is that the United States is running out of easily accessible, financially viable oil. As that easy to retrieve oil disappears, companies have to drill deeper and deeper or in otherwise inaccessible places in order to get their oil. 

This makes the process much more expensive and drives costs up to the point that profits are hard to come by. And this is what we’re beginning to see in the Gulf of Mexico.

Just In Time For Midterms, Congress Kissing Up To Dirty Energy

Congress has less than a week left to finish delivering promises for their donors before they head out for a month-long August recess undoubtedly filled with campaigning, and members aren’t wasting any time in their attempts to suck up to the dirty energy industry.

It is simple math: Congress currently has a 15% approval rating, and every single seat in the House of Representatives is up for election this year (as it is every two years). Reports show that the candidate with the most money wins 91% of the time

When 80% of the public disapproves of the job that you’re doing, the only way to counter that negativity is with a massive advertising blitz, and that costs a lot of money. In order to satisfy the equation, Republicans in Congress are hoping to secure money from electric utilities.

They know what they need, and they also know how to deliver. Republicans in Congress have launched relentless attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), specifically targeting the agency’s power plant pollution rules that require a 30% reduction in emissions by the year 2030.  

Leading the charge is the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Republican Hal Rogers. The committee’s Republicans were able to push through a spending bill that cuts deeply into EPA funding, and also takes aim at some of the agency’s most aggressive climate change initiatives.

As mentioned above, the main target of the committee was the EPA’s power plant rule, but it also tries to defang the EPA’s proposed rules on corporate dumping in waterways.  The ranking Democrat on the committee, Jim Duran, said that there were at least 24 measures in the Republican budget that were designed as “veto bait” for President Obama, which would give the campaigning Republicans an edge when it comes to vying for dirty energy funds.

BBC Pulls The Plug On Climate Change Deniers

Corporate-controlled media outlets have figured out that debate, or more appropriately heated debate and confrontation, can generate larger audiences than a bunch of people sitting around a table agreeing with one another.  And this can work for some topics, such as the best way to tackle immigration reform or how to reduce the federal budget deficit. 

But when faced with an issue that clearly only has one side, the corporate media continues to parade anti-reality talking heads into their studios, hoping that they can help boost ratings.  That is what has happened with the issue of climate change.

The American media have not been the only guilty parties. Media outlets in other parts of the world have been just as willing to put climate change deniers on television to spread misinformation about an issue that will effect the lives of all of earth’s inhabitants. 

But unlike the American media, outlets in the rest of the world have realized that the issue of climate change is far too important to allow deniers on their networks to attack the scientific consensus with no actual evidence.

This month, the BBC instructed its reporters to stop giving credence to climate change deniers on the air.  The network said that they do want to remain neutral on scientific issues, but that there is a very real distinction between neutrality and false balance.  Think Progress explains the difference between the two:

Obama Administration Secretly Weakening EPA Rules

One of highest hopes that environmentally-minded Americans had for President Obama when he first entered office was that he would finally put an end to the secrecy that marred the former Bush administration when it came to environmental policy. 

The image of then-Vice President Dick Cheney meeting in secret with dirty energy industry leaders was still fresh in our heads as we went to the polls in 2008, and we were all but certain that the country chose a leader that would leave those dark days in the past.

Sadly, those hopes for a policy change were dashed before the end of Obama’s first year.  He talked a big game on the campaign trail, but when it came to acting on those promises, that rhetoric proved to be just as hollow as his predecessor’s. 

Obama doubled down on coal, oil, and fracking, while allowing renewable energy investments to fall.  But the most disturbing part of the story is that Obama and his officials have been working in secret to weaken environmental standards that his administration has been patting themselves on the back for in public.

Recently, a federal judge expanded a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that was filed against the Small Business Administration (SBA), which claims that officials within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been working to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power plant pollution standards.  The administration has been dragging its feet in providing the information requested, even after the court ruling, which has led environmental groups to file a complaint against the White House.

At issue is the EPA’s failure to update standards for existing power plants as required by the Clean Air Act — a move that the U.S. Supreme Court had previously said was required of the agency.  The current rules have not been updated since 1982, and environmental groups say that the lack of updating is due to influence from the White House itself.

Have $10,000? Then You Can Join Heartland's Climate Denial Machine!

The Heartland Institute is once again pulling no punches in their quest to spread misinformation on climate science.

In the run-up to the odd return of Heartland's infamous Denial-a-Palooza conference series next month in Las Vegas, the right wing think tank has purchased a large ad section of the conservative newspaper The Washington Times, where they are offering any scientist, business interest group, or concerned citizen the chance to publish their challenge to the science behind climate change.  The only caveat is that they’ll have to pay Heartland the hefty sum of $10,000 for the right to be published.

Joe Corbe from The Washington Times is trying to help Heartland in their quest to find deniers, and he sent out the following letter to potential clients (h/t Salon.com's Lindsay Abrams):

As you may know, The Heartland Institute is hosting a Washington Times Special section to showcase organizations and scientists from around the world who question whether “man-made global warming” will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare. This section will be featured prominently at the 9th International Conference on Climate Change next week.

With this, you are invited to be a part of this special print and digital section with an op-ed in print and digital formats.

You can support the section and have the chance to write an edit and compliment the issue with a full page, full color display ad for your organization for just $10,000. The section will appear online at www.washingtontimes.com and will be advertised with over a million impressions online and with over 500,000 emails.

SPACE IS LIMITED and we are closing space on the issue very soon – Deadline is END OF DAY FRIDAY for a reservation and next Monday to coordinate details/edit/Ad.

Anyway, please call or email as soon as possible if you would like to participate.

Thanks and look forward to our discussion.

Joe Corbe

The Washington Times

House Spending Bill Contains Huge Giveaways To Dirty Energy

The House Appropriations Committee is currently debating a spending bill that would set America back decades when it comes to energy policy and environmental protection.  The 2015 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill will designate money to everything from nuclear waste cleanup to renewable energy investments, and the Appropriations Committee has made sure that neither of those particular items get the funding they need.

The bill, if passed by the full House, will cut $113 million from renewable energy projects, dropping the yearly total to $1.8 billion.  This comes only a year after the Treasury Department was forced to cut renewable energy grants by more than 8% following last year’s sequester cuts.  And while the current incarnation of the spending bill provides $150 million for nuclear waste disposal at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, it also presses the Obama administration to approve the project immediately.

While the bill itself is a slap in the face to renewable energy, the riders that some industry-funded politicians have added are a complete assault on environmental protections.

TransCanada Cries Foul Over New Keystone XL Security Risk Analysis

It doesn’t take much to hurt the dirty energy industry’s feelings.  Less than a day after NextGen Climate released a report detailing the vulnerabilities of the Keystone XL pipeline to a terrorist attack, the company fired back at the group claiming that they were being singled out.

The report was commissioned by NextGen Climate and produced by David Cooper, a retired Command Master Chief Navy SEAL, who was part of the team that took down Osama bin Laden. 

In his report, Cooper lays out some of the easier ways in which a terrorist can take advantage of the pipeline’s vulnerabilities.  He described the pipeline as a “soft target,” meaning that it doesn’t move, it doesn’t change, and there are huge blindspots along the route. 

DeSmogBlog’s Steve Horn spoke with Cooper about the report, and you can read that story here.

Reuters has more:

Attackers could damage remote pump stations along the pipeline's route in the northern Great Plains with just 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of readily available 1960s-era explosives, Dave Cooper, a former Navy Seal, said in the 14-page NextGen report released Wednesday.

NextGen Climate was founded by billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer who has been a target of the dirty energy industry since emerging on the political scene where he has vowed to spend millions in the next U.S. elections to unseat climate change denying and anti-environment candidates.  

Steyer’s name being behind the report has opened up the door for attacks from the industry, and TransCanada has wasted no time in trashing the new report. 

According to The Hill, TransCanada rejected the NextGen study, issuing the following statement:

US Chamber Predicts Economic Apocalypse From New Carbon Rules Despite Opposite Reality

It has been less than a week since the EPA announced new rules for carbon emissions — rules that are being heralded as the most comprehensive effort to tackle climate change by any sitting U.S. president — but big business groups have been spreading misinformation about these new rules for weeks.

Leading the charge against the administration’s proposals is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business interest group in the country, and arguably the most well-funded. 

Just days before the new rules that will limit the amount of carbon that existing power plants can release were made public, the Chamber released a report predicting that any form of carbon regulation would result in economic chaos for the United States.  And this all happened before the Chamber even know what the rules would actually say.

The Chamber’s report issued these dire warnings to Americans, summarized by Think Progress:

Their study determined that it would cost American industry $28.1 billion annually to comply with EPA’s new regulations, that as many as 224,000 jobs would be lost between now and 2030, that the economy would average $50.2 billion lower a year, that Americans would cumulatively pay $289 billion more for electricity over that period, and that they’d lose $586 billion in disposable income.

The U.S. Chamber is attempting to strike at the heart of American fears that it will cost them dearly.  Whether it is their job or their hard-earned money, the Chamber wants Americans to be afraid of losing everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve in life.

Back in the land of reality, the Chamber’s claims are easily debunked.  To start with, as we’ve previously discussed here on DeSmogBlog, safety regulations create jobs rather than destroy them.  Even energy industry CEOs have been willing to admit that this is true in recent years.  The EPA’s estimates show that the new standards will create tens of thousands of new jobs, and the administration’s commitment to invest more in renewable energy will add hundreds of thousands of jobs, thus resulting in a net gain of U.S. jobs.

Life Saving Regulations Stalled In Bureaucratic Abyss

There is an unspoken rule in American politics: when you have bad news to deliver, do it on a Friday afternoon.  This helps to ensure that fewer people will see it, fewer will have time to analyze it, and the media will forget all about it over the weekend.  If you really want the issue to die, release it on a Friday before a holiday weekend, and that’s exactly what the Obama administration did last week when they released their bi-annual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The Unified Agenda reads like a laundry list of proposed safety regulations from nearly all the major regulatory agencies.  Digging into the Department of the Interior section of that list, you will find countless stalled regulations pertaining to the dirty energy industry, some of which have been in limbo since the days of the former Bush administration

Ben Geman at National Journal explains:

New Report Exposes Fossil Fuel Front Groups Behind Attacks on Renewables

Fossil fuel exploitation in the United States has reached a fevered pitch.  Oil production is at a near-record high, and fracking activities have made the U.S. the number one producer of natural gas.  All of this comes at a cost.  In 2013, the oil industry averaged 20 oil spills per day, destroying countless swaths of the environment and leaving toxic chemicals for nearby residents to deal with.  Meanwhile, oil and gas train derailments have totaled at least 11 in the last 11 months. 

During this period of dirty energy dominance, investments in renewable energy continued to fall by 14% in 2013.  The United States is averaging 20 oil spills per day, 1 dirty energy transport train derailment and explosion per month, and yet we’re still doubling down on fossil fuels. 

This all seems fairly shocking, until you peel back the curtain on who is behind the efforts to keep renewable energy solutions out of the picture, which is exactly what a new report has done.  The Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) has released a report detailing not only the fossil fuel front groups behind the attacks on clean energy, but also how they are able to use their money and political muscle to prevent a viable market for clean energy, limiting energy choices for consumers.

From the report, Attacks on Renewable Energy Standards and Net Metering Policies By Fossil Fuel Interests & Front Groups 2013-2014:

The fossil fuel lobby aggressively uses lobbying and propaganda to achieve their goals. Self-identified “free market think tanks” are among the most effective advocates for the fossil fuel industry to lobby for policy changes. Dozens of these so-called free market organizations, a majority of which are members of the State Policy Network (SPN), worked to influence state level energy policies and attack the clean energy industry…

Fossil fuel-funded front groups operate in multiple areas to influence the policy-making process in their attempts to eliminate clean energy policies. First, groups like the Beacon Hill Institute provide flawed reports or analysis claiming clean energy policies have negative impacts. Next, allied front groups or “think tanks” use the flawed data in testimony, opinion columns, and in the media. Then, front groups, like Americans for Prosperity, spread disinformation through their grassroots networks, in postcards mailed to the public, and in television ads attacking the clean energy policy. Finally, lobbyists from front groups, utilities, and other fossil fuel companies use their influence from campaign contributions and meetings with decision makers to push for anti-clean energy efforts.

In addition to listing the individual groups that are fighting against clean energy, EPI also provides a chart showing which groups are most active in energy-producing states, and how their attacks on renewable energy have derailed (or inspired) legislation in each state.  Proposals have ranged from charging citizens an extra $50 - $100 a month if they install solar panels, to smear campaigns geared towards convincing the public that installing clean energy technology in their homes is an investment that will never pay off for consumers.

The report lists the usual suspects as the main culprits:  Heartland Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, and the State Policy Network.  The money behind these groups is from sources like the Koch brothers, Exxon, and many other dirty energy heavy hitters.

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